Before this past year, making plans to travel the world seemed like something that had to wait until life became more settled, more stable, more…something. Fortunately, around this time last year, I had the awakening that travel was not something to put off for a time when all was in place. It is something you do for yourself whenever possible! If you wait for everything at home to be in line for you to leave, you may never leave at all. I now view travel as a form of self-care, a much needed sabbatical from the daily grind.
From my recent travels through Europe, I realized that I was not taking in everything, every moment that I was experiencing on my vacation. I returned home grateful for my time there but found it somewhat difficult to recall the details that I had been so mesmerized by while I was touring. Thank goodness for pictures! But I wanted more clear and vivid memories of the locations and cultures that I was immersing myself in. For a while, I figured this was just how my memory was going to work and who has time to take in and remember all the little details anyway? You’re almost always on the move when you are experiencing a new place with so many things to do. I now realize that I was only rationalizing my failure to slow down and take things in, in the moment.
This realization came a few weeks ago during my trip to Costa Rica. The villa staff brought to my awareness that howler monkeys would be giving us our daily wake up call, which happened to be around 5:30 in the morning. This, initially, was not the most welcomed news for me as we had just gotten in at 2:00 am after a three-hour bus ride from San Jose to the location of the villa. Accepting I had no control over the howler monkeys, I reluctantly prepared myself for a week of early mornings.
Day one of the early morning wake up was quite hectic with getting up and out to the marina where we would be spending much of our time fishing. The day passed by so quickly and I decided that I really needed to figure out how to take in and preserve all these beautiful scenes and experiences before I wound up back at home and racking my mind to remember what happened when and recall all the lovely little details.
The second early morning wakeup call from our friendly and playful monkeys, who happened to adore hanging out on our patio by the pool, became the answer to my wonderings. Instead of trying to roll over and hide my head under the pillow, I listened to the monkeys call out and watched as the palm leaves swayed in the tropical breeze. Slowly, as I began to really take in the moment, the sunrise took on an array of colors that I had not noticed before. The sky varied in hues of yellows, pinks, and oranges and would change every few minutes to a slightly different arrangement of color as the sun rose to greet the boats taking off for their adventurous day of fishing. Before I knew it, I was engaging in mindfulness and really taking in the beauty of being alive in that place. For the remainder of the trip, I used these early morning wake up calls to be in the moment and simply enjoy. A day or two later, I also used this time to process what had occurred the day before in hopes of holding on to those little details that made the vacation unique.
When I returned home and began to get back into my normal regimen, I was pleasantly surprised that my memories and recollections of the trip were more vivid. The sunrise I meditated on during those early mornings is so clear in my mind now that I can access that beautiful scene anytime I choose. The benefits of mindfulness and meditation continue to amaze me and I realize more and more that it is truly a “practice” and that the effort to be mindful pays off in the most picturesque ways!
Coming soon… “Costa Rican Sunrise Meditation”: Guided Imagery for Brookhaven